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JCU pre-law students shocked as professors’ contracts are not renewed

Alissa Van Dress
The Political Science Department houses the pre-law program in the basement of Saint Ignatius Hall.

Students question the future of the Law & Society (LASO) track at JCU as two adjunct professors will not be returning for the fall semester.

Professors Sara Schiavoni and Zachary Paris were informed a couple of weeks ago that their teaching contracts would not be renewed for the 2024 fall semester. This was especially a shock for Schiavoni, who has been teaching at JCU for 21 years.

She is the person who has created the law courses from the ground up and has taught them in this department and at this university for 21 years.

— Ryan Moore '26

Concerned about the situation, some students wrote a petition to present to administration in the hopes that the issue would be reconsidered. One of the authors of this petition is Ryan Moore ‘26, who felt compelled to take up the issue almost immediately after discovering the news. He feels that losing Schiavoni will be detrimental to students on the LASO track.

“She is the person who has created the law courses from the ground up and has taught them in this department and at this university for 21 years,” Moore stated. “In my opinion, because of what’s going on with the cutting of the courses and not offering contracts, it is going to be very difficult to succeed in getting a law and society minor and getting the law background that many students come for.”

Multiple students were especially dismayed with learning this information through word of mouth and other students rather than through administration. Even more surprising to those on the pre-law track was the information that these changes, which they feel weigh heavily on the quality of their education, were not going to be released to the public until course offerings were finalized and published.

Chase Tuller ‘27 discussed this issue as a young student in the program. “As a freshman enrolled in political science with a law and society minor at John Carroll University, I find the prospect of program reductions alarming. Specifically, the potential departure of Dr. Schiavoni, a highly esteemed professor, is troubling,” Tuller expressed. “The uncertainty surrounding the future of my education is concerning, given the significant financial investment involved.”

When news of significant change takes place, people typically wonder about the “why” behind the occurrence. In the opinion of the Chair of the Political Science Department, Dr. Andreas Sobisch, the signs seem to point to enrollment numbers and the downhill trend that started in the early 2000s.

“The first time when the university experienced serious budgetary issues was in 2004, 2005,” Sobisch explained. “We experienced a sudden unexpected drop in enrollment from one year to the next. And so that was the first time we had to seriously think about budget priorities, budget cutting and all of that.”

When departments are told to cut budgets, adjunct professors are often the first to be impacted. Many question whether the reduction of professors would truly cut down costs. “The problem with adjuncts, of course, is they’re really cheap at this university. So in a way, getting rid of adjuncts doesn’t really save that much money. That’s sort of one of the dilemmas,” Sobisch elaborated.

The enrollment numbers seem to weigh heavily on the decision-making process when it comes to the part-time professors who will return each semester. Interim Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Doctor Rodney Hessinger explained his view on the reasoning behind these decisions.

“Any part-time contract is particular to a class and to a particular semester. Faculty don’t have any guarantee of being offered a class the next semester,” Hessinger detailed. “We have had four years of smaller enrollments, and so the total student population is smaller, which means we don’t necessarily need as many classes.”

However, Hessinger assures students that the LASO course offerings and opportunities are still available to continue to support a pre-law education program. Currently for the fall 2024 semester, there are 14 sections of offerings for pre-law students, including courses such as Business Law, Law, Ethics & Criminal Justice Policy and Introduction to Law and Society.

“I think we’ve got a solid slate of offerings that will get people to appreciate the law and its various aspects,” Hessinger commented.

There are still a multitude of different views surrounding the future of the pre-law program. The student body can only wait to see how things will play out in the coming semester.

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About the Contributors
Vic Jackson, Student Government Beat Reporter
Vic Jackson is the Student Government Beat Reporter for The Carroll News from Akron, Ohio. He is a sophomore at John Carroll University double majoring in Communications (Digital Media) and English (Creative Writing) and minoring in Peace, Justice & Human Rights (PJHR). Aside from The Carroll News, Vic is a DJ for The Heights, a student researcher for the Tim Russert Department of Communications, part of Black Students in Action (BSA) and the East Asian Student Association (EASA), a member of JCU's acapella group Sweet Carrollines and a barista at Saxby's, among other things. In their free time, they enjoy listening to R&B and jazz, writing poetry, admiring art and fashion, spending time outdoors and hanging out with friends. After graduation, Vic hopes to work at a major broadcasting station or be a world news journalist for a national news organization. To contact Vic, email him at [email protected].
Alissa Van Dress, Campus Editor
Alissa Van Dress is a junior English major from Amherst, Ohio. She has a concentration in professional writing with minors in business, creative writing and Spanish and Hispanic Studies. Previously, Alissa served as the copy editor at The Carroll News. In addition to her current role as campus editor, Alissa is a JCU football and basketball cheerleader, a writing consultant at the JCU Writing Center, works as a digital engagement ambassador for the JCU Carroll Fund, and serves on the visual arts committee for The Carroll Review. Also, she is honored to have co-founded the Theatre Club at John Carroll University. Other than writing, some of Alissa's favorite hobbies include musical theater, vocal performance, fashion, dance and cheerleading/acrobatics. After graduation, Alissa plans to write for children's entertainment.

To contact Alissa, email her at [email protected].

Comments (2)

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  • S

    ShamirMar 23, 2024 at 8:34 pm

    I am JCU Political Science alumni (Class of 2015) and I am complete shocked and confused by this news! Professor Schiavoni was my first Political Science professor and she was simply the best. Her zeal for teaching, her students, her academic interests, and research was second to none (and I had many stellar professors at JCU!). Professor Schiavoni represents what is exceptional about a JCU education and to see that she was not given a new contract is unconscionable to me! This decision does not reflect well upon the institute that I have proudly considered myself a blessed alumni of and needs to be immediately revisited for the good of the Political Science Department and JCU writ large!

  • J

    Jim Feicht , 1976 graduateMar 23, 2024 at 4:05 pm

    Ask JCU graduate Mizny for donation!